“Journalists are liars” and other notes from the front lines

“Journalists are liars” and other notes from the front lines

During a recent message and media coaching session with more than 130 leaders of an international nonprofit, one sentiment was prevalent: the media is an adversary.

Instead of looking at a media interview as an opportunity to share the organization’s mission and positive impact in the community, many of these leaders thought that the media was out to misconstrue the facts and give the nonprofit a black eye.

Some of the attendees had negative experiences in the past, which shaped their beliefs that one must always be on defense with the media. In many cases, a media interview is like a business transaction.

The reporter has a job – creating a factually accurate, interesting story – and needs the interviewee’s help to achieve that goal. The interviewee has a responsibility to provide the journalist with worthwhile information, background, trends, illustrations and interesting examples.

If it’s like a business transaction, treat it like one.

  • Do your homework. What does the journalist know about the topic? How has it been covered in the past? Become familiar with the reporter and the news outlet.
  • Look at it from their perspective. Why should their readers care? Why is it interesting? What does it mean? Why does it matter?
  • Always return phone calls and emails promptly. If you were offered an opportunity from a potential business partner, you’d very likely answer right away. If you’re not the right person to talk to, tell them who is.
  • Prepare for possible questions, especially the tough ones. If you’re asked about a problem, talk about the solution.
  • Answer their questions honestly. If you don’t know the answer, say so. The truth always comes out. Just ask Tiger or Toyota.